By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Labour and civil society coalition under the umbrella of Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has resolved to embark on a nationwide protest against recent hike in prices of fuel and electricity in the country beginning from Monday, September 28.
The National Executive Committee of NLC met on Tuesday and endorsed the earlier two weeks notice issued by the Central Working Committee saying that come September 28, it will in collaboration with other unions and civil society allies ground activities in the country if the federal government fails to reverse recent hike in pump price of fuel and increase in electricity tariff.
Federal government had approved an increase in pump price of fuel from N148 per a litre to N161 and also granted operators of electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) approvals to effect increase in electricity tariff justifying such increases on its desire to liberalise the energy sector.
In a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting in Abuja Tuesday, NLC disclosed that while addressing journalists on the outcome of the NEC meeting, NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said that Congress rejected the fuel price increase as well as hike in electricity tariff approved by the federal government.
“NEC decision is premised on the fact that the government’s two decisions along with others, including the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) by 7.5 percent, including numerous charges charged by banks will further impoverish Nigerian citizens. Therefore, this increase in the midst of covid-19 pandemic is not ill-timed but is also counter productive.
“NEC also observed that the privatisation of the electricity subsector, five years down the line has not yielded any positive result. Whereas the entire privatized electricity assets were sold for N400 billion, the Congress is surprised that federal government within the last three years has injected N1.5 trillion over and above the amount that was used to sell this very important assets.
” Thus NEC came to a conclusion that the entire privatization process has failed and the hike tariff was only a process of continuous exploitation of Nigerians,” he said.
On the issue of privatization of refineries and increase in the pump price of fuel, Wabba said that NEC believed that government’s argument had not changed from what it used to be.
He said that whether it is about patial deregulation or full deregulation or subsidy removal, the matter had always been about increase in the price of petroleum products.
He lamented that the fuel price increase had eroded the gains of the new minimum wage granted Nigerian workers and led to increase in cost of living for all Nigerians.
He said that NEC demanded that deregulation should not be import driven and that the nation’s three refineries be made to work optimally.
He said that NEC believed that federal government has business in doing business in the downstream sector, just like other oil producing countries which has government-owned refineries.
“In light of all he these, NEC decided to endorse the two week ultimatum given to federal government to reverse those obnoxious decisions and also endorse the action proposed by the Central Working Committee that September 28 will be the date that those actions will be challenged by Nigerian workers, civil society allies and other labour unions,” he said.
On it’s part, TUC said that after an exhaustive meeting held to review its mobilsation strategies on the forthcoming strike to protest fuel hike and electricity tariff, it resolved that the Congress was going to work in collaboration with its sister Labour Centre, NLC and the Civil Society allies to execute the strike.
In a statement signed by TUC president, Comrade Quadri Olaleye and Secretary General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, the union said its ultimatum which expired by midnight of the Tuesday, September 22, 2020 had been shifted to Monday, September 28, 2020 for effective and maximum effect.
TUC statement said: “Consequent upon this, the ultimatum which should expire by midnight of today 22nd September, 2020 has been shifted to 28th September, 2020 for effective and maximum effect. We want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector to bear with us while the industrial action lasts”.
The union said there was no need for the current pains and hardship that the federal government was subjecting Nigeriabs to by the hike in prices of fuel and electricity tariff.
” It is a needless one. They ask us to tighten our belts while they loosen theirs. Services are not rendered yet we are compelled to pay estimated bills. You will recall that this government during its electioneering campaigns in 2014 told the world there is nothing like subsidy. We were told that they will build refineries, all that are history now. We run a mono economy and any hike in fuel automatically will have adverse effect on us yet successive government tow that path because they are not creative.
“As at today, about eight states are yet to commence the payment of new minimum wage and its consequential adjustment even though the president signed it into law on April 18, 2019. We have written letters to the governors and also engaged them in dialogue but all to no avail. Sometimes we wonder if these people have conscience at all,” it said The Congress urged all Nigerians to get ready for the unprecedented mass action against “corruption, obnoxious policies, rape and other violent offences, breach of Collective Agreement, unemployment, etc. We also call on the USA, UK, Germany, Spain, etc. to support our struggle by placing indefinite visa ban on our political leaders whose stock in trade is to loot and impoverish the masses and the country”.